Annual benefits enrollment: Employees to pay more for health care next year

By Erin Long | Emory Report | Oct. 27, 2016

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The 2017 Benefits Guide can be accessed online. It contains details about medical, dental and vision plan costs, as well as ways to save money on health care.

The weather is getting cooler, the leaves are falling, and autumn has arrived. That means it’s also time for annual benefits enrollment at Emory.

During the annual enrollment period, which opened Oct. 24 and continues through Nov. 7, Emory employees can make their benefits selections for the upcoming year, decide how much to set aside for flexible spending or health savings accounts, update their beneficiaries and more.

Faculty and staff will still have the same medical plan options — the HSA plan and the POS plan — but, due to health cost increases, will pay more for their health care overall.

Higher utilization, increased costs for pharmaceuticals and unusually high claims over the past several years have driven up Emory’s health care costs substantially.

“Emory is self-insured, which means that when the cost of claims increase, we all share in that cost,” says Theresa Milazzo, interim vice president for human resources.

As a result of the increase, Emory employees will see higher co-insurance and out-of-pocket maximums and will also pay more for emergency room visits. However, copays for office visits and deductibles are staying the same as last year.

Employees who cover a spouse or same-sex domestic partner (employee plus spouse/SSDP or family coverage tiers) will also see a cost increase this year.

“Spouses cost 15 percent more on average than our employees, so we’ve had to pass on some of that cost to those who cover a spouse or partner on their plan," Milazzo explains. "Emory remains committed to keeping our employee costs as low as possible by paying 90 percent of the employee portion of the premium.”

Although costs are increasing, the separate spouse/SSDP medical charge is going away. Employees will no longer need to certify each year whether their spouse or partner has access to health insurance through their employer and pay the additional $50 per month if they do.

Ways to help lower your health care costs

To help offset medical costs, employees can take advantage of the medical plan incentives that are offered. Up to $450 in incentives can be earned in 2017 for participation in healthy activities, such as getting a biometric screening and completing a health risk assessment questionnaire.

Milazzo also suggests using the Emory Healthcare Network (EHN) to save on costs. “The EHN is definitely the least expensive network option – the plan pays 10 percent more for using EHN than for any other network,” she says.

She further explains that Emory is committed to keeping costs as low as possible. “We continue to work with our health care vendors Aetna and CVS/Caremark to explore innovative ways to save on costs. We also work in partnership with Emory Healthcare and Healthy Emory to provide integrated health care services and promote preventive care and wellness to our employees.”

So what else can you do to help control health care costs? 

“We can all do our part to live healthy — eat right, exercise regularly and manage stress,” says Milazzo. “Be sure to get recommended preventive care and please, don’t ignore health problems that could get worse. Emory programs such as the Move More Challenge and Refresh from Stress are great ways to support healthy living.”

To learn more about how to enroll in your benefits, visit the annual enrollment website